Following our previous look at 175 years of Palestinian suffering on the anniversary of the Nakba (the Arabic word for catastrophe), it is important to remember that at the same time that the well-known and publicized Arab refugee crisis was developing, there was another catastrophe taking place all over the Middle East.
In 1945, there were approximately 1 million Jews living in various Arab countries across the Middle East, as well as Iran/Persia, Afghanistan and other Islamic, non-Arab countries. From Tehran to Baghdad to Beirut to Cairo to Tripoli to Tunis and beyond, bustling Jewish communities thrived for thousands of years. These indigenous peoples predated even the Arabs (and certainly the Muslim invaders who came in the 600's) by over a thousand years! The first Jews to arrive were forced out of Israel and Judea by the Assyrians and Babylonians after the destruction of the FIRST Temple and were later joined by additional refugees of the Roman exile as well the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition and various other atrocities committed against them.
I recently had the privilege to attend movie showing and speech on the topic that was produced by The David Project. The film, entitled The Forgotten Refugees, relates the story of these communities and the terrible conditions that forced them out.
As the Jewish state was forming, the Arabs launched pogroms all over the Middle East. With scenes reminiscent of Kristallnacht from just 10 years earlier, Jews were taken out of their homes, beaten, hanged, robbed, looted and raped. In just a few short years, centuries upon centuries of Jewish culture were erased and these communities fled their homes in terror.
I'm not much of a movie reviewer but I will say that I myself was very affected by what I saw. Growing up, I knew a large percentage of Israel was made up of "Mizrahim" or "eastern" Jews (from Arab lands) but the fact that whole COUNTRIES were literally ethnically cleansed of Jews was not something I had really wrapped my head around before I saw the movie. The movie is filled with documentary footage as well as personal interviews with some of the survivors of these events. But perhaps the most shocking part of the movie was when they displayed a graphic that detailed the Jewish populations of these countries in the 40's and compared them to today...
Source: The Forgotten Refugees, this collection of statistics from Wikipedia and this BBC article on the last Jew in Afghanistan
And lest you think that these Jews were even allowed to take their personal belongings with them or that these people were not productive members of society, this estimate from 2007 that you never read, claims over $300 billion-worth of property lost and the deeds to over 100,000 square miles of land confiscated by the Arab governments. To give you some context - that's over FIVE TIMES the size of the entire state of Israel as it stands today. To give you a little more context, in 1948 (after the "Nakba" was over) the Palestinian population of Israel was 156,000.
Today that number has become 1,498,000.
A TENFOLD increase.
Conveniently, the Arab world has seen to it that the Jewish communities that used to exist in their own lands have been stricken from the record. The Jews who fled have been turned into forgotten refugees because to admit the facts is to admit that the crocodile tears they cry over the Palestinians are exponentially MORE hypocritical when taken in the context that the accusers are actually GUILTY of the behavior they falsely pin on the victims! In reality, if Israel was really looking to "ethnically cleanse" itself of its Arab population - they would do much better to follow the example of the very neighbors who are the loudest to dump this crime on them.
So, as tonight marks the beginning of Yom HaZikaron, the Israeli Memorial Day, the RONMOSSAD blog would like to dedicate this space to those forgotten refugees and the memory of those who did not make it to a better life in Israel or elsewhere. While the hypocritical West and United Nations pass hundreds of resolutions on worldwide refugees (including over 100 on the Palestinian refugees) and create "Bureaus on committees on exercises" to deal with the problem...as usual not a word is said about the catastrophe that befell the Jews of the Middle East at the same time! Instead those victims are demonized and cast as the oppressors.
I hope you will now join me in taking every opportunity you can, to remind those who seek to eliminate the Jewish communities of the Middle East from our memories, that we will not allow them to rewrite history and to hijack the narrative for their political gains.
The world must know that Israel is NOT made up of "European invaders" - rather that these communities existed in Israel and in the Middle East for thousands of years before the first Zionists set foot in Petach Tikvah.
That the descendants of these now-destroyed Jewish communities are still very much alive and part of society and that they will not be silenced by a world that finds their existence inconvenient.
That they will be forgotten and cast aside no longer.
Skip to the next post in this series: Triumph or the previous post: Nakba